"We have to win as it is", said Dani Ceballos and almost all his teammates in Udine, before the final of the U21 European Championship that they finally won against Germany (2-1). They were sure that nothing could stop them. "Anyway" it included even the most purist of the tiqui-taca, like Fornals. It was the same. "Anyway" implied an exercise in pragmatism and a conviction that victory was assured. These young Spaniards no longer have to overthrow any of the prejudices that the generations that preceded them confronted this type of games from the complex and the fear.
The order of world football has changed and now these players from Utrera, Castellón, Barcelona or Eibar felt superior to Germany despite the fact that the selection they would face was much more powerful than the one that had beaten them in the Eurocup of 2017. Then, the Germans divided their strength: they gave vacations to the most veterans of the absolute selection, they played the Confederations Cup with a selection of reserve and they sent to the Euro sub-21 to the third unit of the Mannschaft. But the result of Sunday's final (2-1) gave reason to those who thought like Ceballos. On the trip back to Madrid, on Monday morning, the overall balance was of relief. They felt that they had done their duty: to win. They said that they had verified their power in an undeniable fact. Antonio Sivera, the doorman, had not made a single stop of merit.
The triumph accentuates a tendency. On Sunday Spain increased its dominance as the first power of European football by collection of continental titles adding the sub-17, sub-19, sub-21 and absolute categories. In total, La Roja has garnered 18 titles in these four divisions. They are followed by Germany and France with eight, Italy and Holland with seven, England with five and Portugal with four among the major European powers.
With the last one, Spain has five trophies under-21, seven sub-19, three sub-17 and three absolute Euro Cups. A continuity in the style of play is also enshrined. Heirs of an associative and ingenious way of understanding football, the most illustrious representatives of this sub-21 connect with Lapetra, Amancio or Suárez, champions in 1964, as well as with Xavi, Iniesta or Silva, champions in 2008 and 2012. Now Ceballos, Fabián, Fornals, Roca, Oyarzabal and Soler have been placed on the threshold that leads to the highest aspirations. Without changing the game record of touch and uncheck, and without enjoying the privileges of protection of the three largest clubs in Spain. The template is characterized by amalgamate various forms of marginalization. Olmo is a Barcelona exile in Croatia, there are no Atlético players, and among the Real Madrid players Vallejo, cornered in his club by injuries, and Ceballos, who has not been regular holder in two years.
The tribute of the coach, Luis de la Fuente, to his players for the conquest of the U21 European Championship included the reading of an emotional letter that had been written for four years. "Good morning guys, it's been a week since we got to be European champions," the story began. "As time goes. But surely this event will last in our minds and those of those who supported us forever. It has been a pride and a privilege to be able to work hand in hand with all of you. You are an unrepeatable generation. Enjoy this success. You have earned it. But that only means the beginning of a long and fruitful professional careers. And do not ever forget that this can be improved, "concluded De la Fuente. The origin of his heartfelt words is July 16, 2015, a week after winning the U19 European Championship in Greece. "This is still valid. You are an unrepeatable generation, "said the coach.
De la Fuente directed the letter originally to the boys who won the European U-19 of 2015. Of that template remain in this sub-21 winner Unai Simon, Mikel Merino, Dani Ceballos, Jorge Meré, Borja Mayoral, Pedraza, Jesús Vallejo and Aaron "I hope they have more opportunities in Spanish clubs. They deserve the recognition and gratitude of our football, "he closed.
"I felt good about myself", Ceballos confessed in Onda Cero at the end of the championship; "I have released thousands of things that crossed my mind. Sometimes you get to think that you are not the soccer player you can be. But after these two weeks I think I have football inside, that I enjoy when I'm happy, and the most important thing is to feel good about yourself and feel important in a team. "
Ceballos and his teammates have placed themselves in the same position as Iniesta, Silva or Cazorla in 2006. They come from achieving some continental trophy with the lower categories of the national team, but they have not yet won titles with the absolute or occupy positions of maximum responsibility in their clubs. The next step will be the decisive one.
A cohesive group
"They have earned the right to show that they are up to the veterans of 2008-2012," said the coach, Luis De la Fuente. "Very few generations are capable of linking a sub-19 Euro and a sub-21 Euro as they have done. They have tremendous potential. A very united and cohesive group has been formed. "
Francis Hernandez, the coordinator of the lower categories of the federation, indicates the key to hegemony: "Having found a method and style has helped us enormously, as well as having had good generations of players well worked. Now, that raw material we want to improve it with an evolution ". "We have started playing more games with the lower categories," says Hernández; "Because only through the competitions and the matches you get a more real assessment of the players. We are also developing new technological tools to better plan the training with a more effective management of the information we have about the players. "
Marc Roca said last Saturday, the eve of the final, he had no doubt. "I am convinced that we are going to beat Germany," the midfielder repeated.
So much security, so much certainty confessed in public, is contrary to the old precepts of Spanish football, where veterans like Iron or Raul behaved in the opposite direction to the current. Prevailing superstitious prudence. "If you take out your chest, they'll sink it," they said. They were different times. Times of scarcity. Years of sticks at the hands of Germans, French and Italians. An era that seems definitively closed by the generational change. Today young people feel like the kings of Europe.